Restaurant Review - Cleaver East
Thursday 29 August 2013
What is it about men and their weapons? Thirty years ago, Marco Pierre White launched his cleaver clutching, tousle haired, moody, sexy-chef image –- today he promotes stock cubes and steak houses! Now Michelin starred chefs, Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit, Malahide, and Rory Carville formerly of Lock’s Brasserie, just launched their new Cleaver East restaurant, in the former Tea Rooms of The Clarence Hotel, along with images of the chefs emulating this look, clutching cleavers and a pigs head.
The décor is great: a central bar, cleaver lined walls, hanging wooden beams, and seating for 120. Our online booking for 7.15 on its second night allowed us a 1.45 hour table allocation – a criterion applied to any booking I tested, even a month hence. It proved ironic, with no more than 20 diners present all evening.
Dunne and Carville are talented chefs but Paul O’Connor, my dining companion, and I felt perhaps the concept hadn’t been fully thought through. The menu offers tasting plates (€7 - €15) with a “recommendation of 3-4 per person” by the waiter, the running order of which was “dictated by the chef”. For me, it immediately raised the question as to how they were going to manage that number of plates for each person if the restaurant was full. It later transpired their earlier soft opening had highlighted these problems with “bigger tables of six and eight. There will be changes.” said Rory Carville. Oliver Dunne told us later that for parties of eight or over they wouldn’t do the Tasting Menu; only regular starters and mains. “So, what if two people come in and want a starter and mains?” I asked. ”No”, said Dunne adamantly, “they have to have the tasting menu. That’s what we are, a tasting restaurant.”
We kicked off with three “lighter” dishes to share. Two good lobster dumplings (€11) came with oriental mushrooms and a vibrant lemongrass broth, while pan fried scallops (€13) were served with crispy pancetta with potato “bubbles’. From “Twisted Classics”, a quail’s egg and haddock ‘Scotch egg’ (€10) was slightly nothingish. Meantime, with a bucket holding cutlery and napkins, plus a wine bucket, our small table was really cluttered. Deconstructed Beef Curry (€15) – without any spicy flavour – was a piece of fillet steak centered with pickled cauliflower florets, oils and raita, while deconstructed Paella (€12) had a broth based brace of prawns and other minutiae, topped with a crispy rice ball. Finally, crispy lamb breast (€11) came with rosemary aioli and glazed baby turnip. Strawberry and cream Pannacotta (€6) was lovely with balsamic and honeycomb, as was Black Forrest Gateau (€6). With a bottle of Hacienda Lopez Viura 2011 (€28), two espressos (€7.45) and bottled water (€2), our bill, without service and with a first month discount of 20% on the food element, came to €102.36.
“I’m exhausted, this is an endurance test” said Paul, of the cramped comings and goings experience.
On tendering my credit card, the young waiter advised they’d had a problem with their terminal. With that, the manager came dashing up, phone in hand ,calling an authorisation centre in full voice. “If you know have a problem with your machine, you should be taking the details and sorting it out quietly later.” I said. He persisted, in front of my guest, saying “they couldn’t authorize it.” On departure, knowing my card was A1, I asked to speak to Rory Carville, pointing out how they had embarrassed me, in front of my guest, knowing that they had a problem with their terminal. The next morning I was told the transaction had never been declined and had, of course gone through!
Rattled, nay cleavered, is how I felt on departure.
Tel: (01) 531-3500
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT ON AUGUST 25, 2013.